Softball: No. 20 Northwestern sweeps Wisconsin, extends win streak to eight


Daily file photo by Mary Randolph

Graduate pitcher Danielle Williams throws a pitch at Sharon J. Drysdale Field. Williams earned her one hundredth career win Sunday following Northwestern’s shutout over Rutgers.

Rachel Schlueter, Reporter

No. 20 Northwestern (28-9, 13-1 Big Ten) completed its third consecutive sweep this weekend, winning three games against Wisconsin (22-14, 7-5 Big Ten).

The Wildcats swept Penn State (23-13, 5-9 Big Ten) and Illinois (24-20, 3-11 Big Ten) earlier this month and carry an eight game win streak. Before the series at Wisconsin, NU held a one-game first place lead in the conference standings. Now, the Cats possess a three-game lead over Nebraska (30-13, 10-4 Big Ten) for the top spot. 

The Cats’ first win of the series came after a pitcher’s duel. Junior pitcher Lauren Boyd started in the circle for NU, allowing no runs and just one hit through three innings. 

NU struck first in the second inning with sophomore second baseman Grace Nieto drawing a six-pitch walk with the bases loaded, giving the Cats an early 1-0 lead. But after scoring in the second, Northwestern’s bats remained quiet. 

After a scoreless three innings from Boyd, graduate pitcher Danielle Williams pitched the remainder of the game. Williams has been the Cats’ ace all season, leading the team in innings pitched and strikeouts with 83 and 118, respectively.

Williams continued to dominate in the circle during the first game against the Badgers, tossing four scoreless innings, allowing three hits and striking out seven. The southpaw picked up the win with NU beating Wisconsin 1-0. 

In that game, the Cats tallied their lowest run-total since March 17, when the team fell 1-2 to Oklahoma. Heading into Saturday’s doubleheader, NU looked to reignite the offensive firepower that has dominated its Big Ten slate thus far.

In the Cats’ first game on Saturday, freshman designated player Kansas Robinson walked with the bases loaded in the top of the second inning, putting the Cats on the board. In the top of the third, junior third baseman Hannah Cady and graduate first baseman Nikki Cuchran packed a one-two punch. Cady hit a two-out double and Cuchran immediately drove her in with a single, handing NU a 2-0 lead. 

In the bottom of the third, graduate pitcher Cami Henry gave up a solo homer to Wisconsin first baseman Katie Keller but bounced back, ending the inning by stranding a Badger on second.

Graduate center fielder Skyler Shellmyer led off the fifth inning with a solo shot over the left-center fence, stretching the Cats’ edge to 3-1. 

Shellmyer stayed hot in the sixth inning, stretching NU’s lead to 5-1 off a 2-RBI single. Graduate shortstop Maeve Nelson followed up with a sacrifice fly to left center, giving the Cats a 6-1 lead.

The Badgers threatened a comeback in the bottom of the seventh inning with a two-run homerun, but Williams entered the circle in relief and secured the final two outs to give NU a 6-3 NU victory.  

The Cats won their final game of the weekend in dramatic, extra innings fashion. Senior pitcher Sydney Supple kept the Badgers scoreless through four innings. 

However, the Cats were also scoreless up until the top of the fourth, when they put the first runs on the board.  First, Nelson hit an infield ground ball to score the Cats’ first run of the contest. Then, with two outs, senior pinch hitter Kendall Peterson tallied a 2-RBI infield single, giving NU a 3-0 lead. 

Supple allowed her first run of the game in the bottom of the fourth, courtesy of a single by Wisconsin shortstop Ellie Hubbard. But, she finished the inning with a foul out, stranding a runner on base. 

The Badgers struck back in the bottom of the seventh, evening the score at 3-3 with a two-run homer. Williams then took the circle and finished the inning with a strikeout, halting Wisconsin’s offensive comeback.

Heading into extra innings, Cady ended the eighth by making a diving catch on a line drive to third base, gifting the Cats the momentum boost they needed to take the lead. In the top of the ninth, Shellmyer — who notched three RBIs in the contest — hit a sacrifice fly to score Nelson, securing a 4-3 win for NU.

Williams clinched her second win of the weekend and 11th of the season, compiling 11 strikeouts in 7.1 innings throughout the three contests.

With 94 career wins, Williams is now just three shy of tying the program record of 97 — and has nine regular season games left to do so. 

The Cats will play a series against fourth-place Michigan (22-16, 8-5 Big Ten) this weekend. NU will look to extend its first place lead and road win streak. 

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